Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 57

Another Saturday morning of gaming with my mother (AKA Grandma) and elder daughter (AKA Maddie). Younger daughter (AKA Georgia) was having a nap and mummy (AKA Deb) was at work.

First up was The Amazing Labyrinth. Although this is a family favourite this was the first time we'd played it in 2008. Each of us had 8 items to find. I was green, Grandma yellow and Maddie red. The adults were allowed to only look at their top card and Maddie was allowed to look at her top 4 cards. I suggested we reduce Maddie's handicap to perhaps 3 cards but she didn't want to.

The shifting maze

Maddie soon shot to a commanding lead. At one stage the scores were Maddie 7, Grandma 4 and myself 3. The first player to find all 8 items and return to their starting point would be the winner. Maddie stalled on her last item which allowed Grandma and I to catch up. It was a very close game. I ended up winning with all 8 items and the first to reach my starting point, Maddie came second also with 8 items and Grandma had 7.

Our second game of the morning was another firm favourite enjoying its first play of the year - Cartagena. Maddie sat this one out so it was just myself and Grandma. We played using the normal rules (as opposed to the Tortuga rules). Grandma made the mistake of allowing some of her pirates to fall behind which made it very difficult for her at the end. I went on to take the win. I really enjoy this game.

Hard to see, but all 6 of my green pirates are on the boat - Only 2 of Grandma's yellow pirates escaped.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

BattleLore Specialist Cards Arrive

Back on 8 March I ordered a free replacement set of Specialist Cards for BattleLore: Call to Arms (the card backs on the 1st edition Call to Arms cards did not match the backs of the Specialist Card decks that were later released). On 15 March I received an email from Days of Wonder informing me they had shipped the cards to me on 14 March. Today, 25 March, they arrived at my home in Australia.

I feel like a game of BattleLore now!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 56

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and my elder daughter Maddie (aged 6). As it was the day before Easter Sunday, Grandma came bearing chocolates made in the country of her birth, Switzerland. Grandma and I had a cup of tea and a chat and then it was time for my younger daughter Georgia (aged 2) to have a nap. Grandma, Maddie and I then congregated at the dining room table for some games.

Our first game of the morning was Loot. I bought this early last year based on the fact that it's a Knizia-designed game and had a pirate theme. It also had decent ratings on BoardGameGeek and it appeared to be a good filler game which would be ideal for playing with the family.

In this game players are competing to gain the most gold. Gold is gained by capturing merchant ships. The deck comprises merchant ships of varying worth, pirate ships of varying attack strengths, 4 pirate captains aligned with the four colours of the pirate fleets and an Admiral card which can protect a merchant ship.

On your turn you have a choice of one action. This action can be to play a merchant ship, pick a card from the draw deck, play a pirate ship to attack a merchant ship, play a pirate ship or pirate captain to support the attack of a pirate ship you already have in play or play an Admiral card to protect your own merchant ship.

We played with three players. The game can take from 2-5 individual players or up to 8 playing in partnership. I found the game OK with three players. I'd like to play it again, and with perhaps an extra person or two, to explore it a bit more. Strangely enough, Grandma ended up getting all 4 pirate captains and the Admiral. Grandma should have won but she failed to play her Admiral on her 8 gold merchant ship and only realised this later. Final scores were me on 38, Maddie on 33 and Grandma on 29.

Next up was Burg Appenzell. This is a game I imported direct from Germany last year when I shared in a combined postage order with some other local gamers. This is a fun game with cute components and lovely artwork. Players are mice trying to find cheese within Castle Appenzell. The box actually becomes part of the game and holds the dungeon pits into which the mice may fall. Each player has a certain number of action points each turn which they may spend either moving, sliding the spaces on the board, removing the rooftops, or adding further mice to the towers. The final results were me 4, Grandma 2 and Maddie 1.

Our final game of the morning was an old favourite - For Sale. This is a fun, fast game of bidding on property and then trying to sell the property for the most money. Final scores were Grandma with $72k and Maddie and I both $65K.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 55

It's the start of the Formula 1 season with the first race kicking off in Melbourne, Australia this Sunday. So with the Saturday morning F1 practice sessions on the TV in the background, my mother (Grandma to our kids), my 6 year old daughter Maddie and myself sat down at our dining room table to play Formula De using the circuit 20 expansion track representing Melbourne, Australia.

I attended the Melbourne Formula 1 Grand Prix back in 2004 and 2005 so was familiar with the Albert Park circuit. The board does a great job of representing the track. The artwork on the game board is colourful and full of flavour and atmosphere.

The Melbourne Formula De circuit

Years ago I bought and painted several pewter F1 cars for Formula De. Click here to see some pictures. Our race today would be a one-lap race using two cars each. To make is quicker and easier for Grandma and Maddie I modified the rules slightly. I chose not to use the normal wear points (WP) for body, breaks, tires etc. Instead I just gave them 10 plastic tokens (from a Connect 4 game) for each car to represent wear points. If a car ended its move one space from a corner the player would be allowed to burn 1 WP to move forward a space to end up on the first space of a corner. Cars could overshoot a corner by up to 3 spaces and would burn a WP for each space they overshot. If a car overshot a corner by four spaces it would crash. You could drop gears but a drop of two gears would cost 1 WP, three gears would cost 2 WP, and four gears 3 WP. Collision rules were in effect but weather rules were not.

Maddie chose the red cars, Grandma chose yellow and I chose blue. We rolled the black d20 for qualifying positions (lowest got pole). Starting grid was as follows:

  • 1st - Team Dad - Juan Tobasco (red helmet)
  • 2nd - Team Maddie - Cloe Angel (red helmet)
  • 3rd - Team Maddie - Jade Coolcat (yellow helmet)
  • 4th - Team Grandma - Clyde Steele (red helmet)
  • 5th - Team Dad - Akira Wasabi (yellow helmet)
  • 6th - Team Grandma - Stirling Moss (yellow helmet)

The starting grid

It was a very exciting race with Juan Tobasco from Team Dad holding on to the lead for several turns before losing it to Cloe Angel of Team Maddie. Some risky moves paid off for Akira Wasabi of Team Dad and he gained a couple of places in the middle straight. Meanwhile, the Team Grandma drivers Steele and Moss slowly gained on the pack which had raced ahead. Some cautious driving by the Team Maddie drivers meant that the Team Grandma drivers made up places at their expense. Coming into the final turn it was Stirling Moss from Team Grandma in first place and Akira Wasabi from Team Dad in second. A risky decision to stay in a higher gear (with a 1-in-6 chance of crashing) by Wasabi meant that he was only one space behind Moss coming out of the final corner. It was a nail-biting finish with Akira Wasabi of Team Dad taking the chequered flag to win the race just in front of Stirling Moss from Team Grandma who crossed the line in the next turn.

Akira Wasabi of Team Dad wins the Melbourne Formula De Grand Prix!!!

The battle for the last place on the podium was closely fought between Team Grandma and Team Dad. Clyde Steele from Team Grandma ended up just inching out Juan Tobasco from Team Dad to take 3rd position.

The final placements were:

  • 1st - Team Dad - Akira Wasabi (yellow helmet) (4 WP left)
  • 2nd - Team Grandma- Stirling Moss (yellow helmet) (1 WP left)
  • 3rd - Team Grandma- Clyde Steele (red helmet) (5 WP left)
  • 4th - Team Dad- Juan Tobasco (yellow helmet) (1 WP left)
  • 5th - Team Maddie- Cloe Angel (red helmet) (5 WP left)
  • 6th - Team Maddie - Jade Coolcat (yellow helmet) (7 WP left)
Using the tokens for wear points cut down on the record keeping. If we wanted to play with the wear point rules from the rulebook then I guess we could use different coloured tokens to represent brakes, body, tires, fuel, etc. It's interesting to note the combined wear points left to each team - I had 5 WP, Grandma had 6 WP and Maddie had 12 WP left. Obviously, being able to effectively manage the wear points of your cars contributes to final places. There is also the issue of the luck of the dice but over the 17 turns we played the luck tended to even itself out.

I really enjoyed this game. I've always thought it would be a lot of fun getting together with a bunch of like-minded gamers every fortnight to play a series of races with points from each race going to determine an eventual Driver Champion and Constructor Champion.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Huntsman Spider - A Closer Look

Back on 28 November last year I blogged about a huntsman spider I found on a wall downstairs. Well, last weekend I found a dead huntsman spider. Like most dead spiders all its legs were curled up and it looked fairly small. I was about to pick it up and throw it in the bin when I became curious and decided to have a closer look.

I carefully teased its legs out to see what size it was when it was alive. It must have only recently died as the body and legs were still soft and pliable. Looking at it closely I found that it had a certain menacing beauty.

This one had a 10 cm (4 inch) legspan

So I had to take the spider to show my wife and the girls. I resisted the urge to scare them, tempting as that was, but instead used the opportunity to educate them. After I assured them it was dead they trusted me enough to come and have a closer look.

It has a lovely pattern on its legs

My wife is scared of spiders but did comment that it was pretty when you looked at it is closely. Maddie at age 6 is also fearful of spiders but was curious enough to spend a lot of time peering at it. Georgia at age 2 wasn't scared of the spider at all but we explained to her that she shouldn't normally touch spiders but it was OK Daddy was holding it as it was dead. "Dead? Dead?" Georgia kept repeating as she pointed to the spider in my hand.

I had to show the girls...

I want to instill a healthy respect for spiders in the girls without making them hysterical with fear when they see one. They already know I don't believe in killing spiders and that I will normally catch any in the house and let them go again outside. The only spiders I'll consider killing are the poisonous redback spiders and only then if they are in a place where the kids may play (and even then I feel bad).

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Family Gaming - 2

Sunday evening, after the kids had been fed, bathed and teeth brushed, I suggested we play some games before bedtime. In attendance were my wife, Deb, our daughters, Maddie (6), Georgia (2) and myself.

Our first game was Loco!, a Knizia-designed game. It's fun, fast and easy to understand. Georgia alternated between Mummy and Daddy's laps trying to grab the brightly coloured disks. Finals scores were me 24, Deb 20 and Maddie 19.

Maddie's bright yellow card holder (in the background) comes in use once again

Our second game was Der Plumpsack Geht Um (AKA Sherlock). This is a fun memory game. We agreed to play with 10 cards laid out on the table with the winner the first person to claim 3 cards. After my first turn I was regretting that we chose this many cards (it had been a long day and I was tired - at least that was my excuse!). Deb, as always, is very good at memory games. She ended up winning with 3, myself with 2 and Maddie with 0.

Photo taken just before Deb claimed the lightbulb card

Then it was time for bed.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 54

Saturday morning saw my mother (AKA Grandma), my 6-year-old daughter (AKA Maddie) and myself get together to play some games at our dining room table.

Our first game was Flying Carpet which I hadn't played since March 2006 (2 years ago!). In this game the goal is to move your magic carpet-riding character (represented by a circular coloured wooden playing piece) from the top of the tower on the left of the board to the top of the tower on the right of the board. The first player to reach the tower on the right wins the game. Maddie was red, I was green and Grandma was yellow.

The Flying Carpet board looks like something from out of the One Thousand and One Nights

At the start of the game players are dealt 4 wind cards and 5 direction tiles. You move by playing a wind card which has several options of movement and direction. Wind cards are replenished back to 4 every turn. These wind cards may also be modified by using a direction tile which may change movement one space in any direction. When you use a direction token it is not replaced. There are also obstacles like buildings and clouds which must be negotiated and stars which will trigger a random occurrence when they are landed upon. There are three coloured sky bands on the board which also affect one's movement. In the lowest beige coloured area there is no change to your movement. In the light blue band you will be blown one extra space horizontally to the right. In the top dark blue band you will be blown two extra spaces horizontally to the right.

This game reminds me somewhat of a simpler version of RoboRally in that you must use directional cards to move around obstacles. We had fun with Maddie coming 1st (with a little assistance from me), myself 2nd and Grandma 3rd.

Our second game of the morning was another I hadn't played in a while, Guillotine. In this card game players are executioners in revolutionary France competing to cut off the heads of nobles. Little did those who were executed during the period from 1793 to 1794 suspect that just over 200 years later a lighthearted, humorous card game would be published based on the Reign of Terror.

I'd last played Guillotine back in May 2006 (Is it just me or does time seem to speed up as you get older?). Maddie chose to sit this one out meaning this would be a 2-player game between Grandma and myself.

The line of nobles awaiting execution

Guillotine is a fun game. It even comes with a cardboard guillotine which is set up at the end of the line of nobles, each worth a varying amount of points. The game is played over 3 days (rounds) with 12 nobles up for execution on each day. Players have a hand of action cards which allow them to change the order of the nobles. Choosing to play an action card is optional. You then take whatever noble is at the front of the line.

Some nobles are worth more in combination with others and some nobles have negative points. Some action cards may be played on your own score pile to give you extra points or on your opponent's score pile to deduct points or hinder them in other ways. Overall the game is fun, light and quick. I ended up winning with 40 points to Grandma's 30.

Ordered BattleLore: Call to Arms Replacement Cards

Days of Wonder just announced that they've released a free replacement set of Specialist Cards for BattleLore: Call to Arms. I picked up the first edition of this BattleLore expansion in June last year so placed my order for the replacement cards today.

Sure, it's only a minor printing error but Days of Wonder have done the right thing in fixing it. Thanks Days of Wonder!

Here are the details:


The card backs on the first edition Call to Arms cards did not match the backs of the Specialist Card decks that were later released. While this does not affect game play, for those who would like a visual match we have printed replacement decks of the 10 Call to Arms cards with the correct matching card backs and are offering a free replacement program.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Gary Gygax

I just found out that Gary Gygax passed away yesterday, 4 March 2008. Gary Gygax is generally recognised at the father of the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). I first started playing D&D in 1983 and role-playing was a big part of my life through my teens and early twenties. I still have many books with his name on the spine in my bookshelf.

It was funny because just yesterday I was reminiscing about the excitement and fun I had adventuring in my youth. I haven't had that feeling for many years...

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Gaming With Grandma - 53

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and 6 year-old daughter (AKA Maddie). For some strange reason Maddie had decided to take a 'vow of silence' and made it known to us through sign language that she wasn't going to talk for the rest of the day. For someone who can be a non-stop chatterbox I suspected this wasn't going to last very long. Kids do the weirdest things... :)

2 year-old Georgia sat close by in the living room (where we could see her) watching a Maisy Mouse dvd while we all prepared to play a game at the dining room table. Maddie went to the gaming cabinet and selected Reiner Knizia's Amazing Flea Circus. In this game players attempt to attract cats and dogs to their flea circuses. Each cat is worth one point and each dog is worth two points. At the beginning of the game the card deck is shuffled and each player is dealt 5 cards. Each card represents an attraction or act worth between two to four points. Each round a player plays one of these cards face up in front of them which represents the current act at their circus and takes the corresponding number of points worth of cats and dogs from the pile in the middle of the table. Some special cards allow you to play more than one card or take cats and dogs from other players.

Cats and dogs attending my flea circus

Sure it's a kids game but it's a Knizia-designed kid's game. It's light, it's fast and there is strategy involved in who to target with certain cards. It was a close and exciting game and we didn't know who would win until the very last minute. We all enjoyed it and the final scores were Maddie 1st with 21 points, Grandma 2nd with 20 points and myself 3rd with 19 points.

I was amazed that Maddie had still not said a word even when she won. She then mimed that she wanted to go and watch a Bratz cartoon dvd which she wanted me to put on for her. That was fine as it would give Grandma and I a chance to play a two player game together.

After setting Maddie up I chose The Downfall of Pompeii. This is a game that had not been played since June 2007. We'd previously played it three player with Maddie, Grandma and myself but I'd always wanted to see what it was like playing with just two players. Now was my chance.

In this game players first attempt to place their followers (represented by small wooden hexagons) into buildings on the map of Pompeii and the when Mount Vesuvius erupts they attempt to have their followers vacate the city from any of the seven gates. The person who has the most followers alive at the end of the game is the winner.

The card deck consists of buildings, omen cards and two AD 79 cards. There is a special way of constructing the deck so that the AD 79 cards appear at certain stages of the game and trigger events.

The board as Mount Vesuvius erupts. I am red and Grandma is black

At the end of the first phase of the game I had placed 30 people on the board and Grandma had placed 27. The 7 Omen cards ended up being distributed fairly evenly with me having 3 people in the volcano and Grandma 4.

In the second phase of the game you try to get your people out of the city. You have 6 turns before the lava starts flowing. Then the fun begins. You draw lava tiles from a cloth bag and the initial placement of the tile is based on what symbol is on the corner of the tile. After that you must place further tiles of the same type adjacent to other tiles of that type. This allows you to place a lava tile on to square containing your opponent's followers and then throw those followers into the volcano. The amount of followers in the volcano at game end is used as a tie-breaker.

The lava spread at the end of the game

There is tension as you may only move two followers each turn and you never know where a lava tile will be placed each turn. As a lava tile will have to be placed adjacent to another with the same symbol you have a rough idea of where tiles will be placed if they are drawn. It's then a race of your followers to exit the city while you try to direct the lava in the direction of your opponent's followers.

I really enjoyed The Downfall of Pompeii as a two-player game. It was constantly tense and ended up being a very close game. I won with 18 followers having escaped the city with Grandma having 17 followers alive. We counted the followers in the volcano - I had 15 and Grandma had 14. Had she had only one more follower escape she would have equalled my score and won on the tie-break. That was close!

Oh, and Maddie lasted about two hours with her vow of silence!